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Early intervention in dyslexia is key

Updated: July 1, 2012 11:58AM

Q. I think my 4-year-old son might have dyslexia; my dad had it. How can I be sure, and what should I do if he does?

A. Dyslexia, or developmental reading disorder, is an information-processing problem in the brain that makes it difficult to interpret language and symbols, such as letters. It does run in families. But it doesn’t have to limit your child’s future success and happiness. Whoopi Goldberg, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Dr. Toby Cosgrove (cardiac surgeon and CEO of Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic) are just a few high achievers who have struggled with the condition.

Studies show it’s possible to identify children as young as 3 who are at risk for dyslexia, and the chance of a child succeeding is much greater if he or she receives early treatment! Simple visual attention tasks that ask a child to pick out certain symbols and filter relevant from irrelevant information can indicate processing problems. And MRIs can help confirm a diagnosis by identifying differences in brain activity in regions that detect and discriminate between speech sounds, which seem to be precursors to reading problems.

Before heading to the doctor to explore testing options, take time to note your child’s behaviors. Then let your health-care provider know if your child:

† has problems getting dressed, like consistently buttoning up wrong or putting shoes on the wrong feet;

† misstates the names of colors — saying green is yellow and blue is red;

† confuses under/over and up/down;

† has problems with games that other kids his age find easy to grasp;

† enjoys hearing stories, but isn’t interested in printed letters or words.

If you decide that your child should be evaluated for dyslexia, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act entitle your child to a free evaluation to determine whether he qualifies for special support or even an individualized education program tailored especially for a learning-disabled student.

Q. My 6-year-old’s best friend always plays at our house; now I know why. I went into her home and discovered that it’s overflowing with boxes, newspapers and bags full of purchases that have never been opened. What’s going on, and what can I do?

A. Today, TV shows trumpet the mental disorder of hoarding as entertainment, but it is not. It’s a potentially life-threatening problem, and demands intervention, especially when children are affected. Fire, disease, stacked objects falling and mental distress all are ever-present dangers.

Try contacting others in her family and see if they’re aware of what’s going on.

Keep the kids playing at your house (you are doing a good thing). If you think the child is in danger, perhaps contact local authorities, such as police, fire or public health and welfare agencies.

King Features Syndicate

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